Federal prosecutors in Miami have announced charges against a Texas resident accused of using doctored payroll expense documents to fraudulently obtain $1.2 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds meant for businesses impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Uzoamaka Leonard Ohaebosim, 46, was charged with making false statements to a financial institution and bank fraud. He was arrested in Houston and had his first initial appearance in federal court on September 17. It is unclear if he has acquired the services of an attorney.
According to the criminal complaint, the accused sought approximately $1.2 million in PPP loans for his company Spite the Movie (STM). He allegedly submitted an application containing numerous false and misleading statements regarding his company’s payroll expenses.
The arrested man from Texas is accused of providing a false payroll tax form indicating that STM had over 100 employees and payroll expenses of $983,000, with taxes withheld of approximately $122,000 in the first quarter of 2020. In reality, records reportedly showed that his company had not actually paid those employees and had not filed that particular tax form with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The PPP is a federal program that offers emergency loans to small businesses as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES act was enacted by Congress to provide economic relief to businesses that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Congress approved over $650 billion in loans that could be forgiven if the funds were used to cover employee wages, rent, utilities, and certain other expenses.
His loan application was approved and funded by a financial institution in South Florida, and he allegedly received $1.3 million in PPP loans for his company. Law enforcement managed to successfully seize the funds, records indicate.
Cases of PPP fraud like this aren’t uncommon. Earlier this month, the Justice Department announced that it had charged 57 people with trying to steal more than $175 million from the Paycheck Protection Program. Some of the cases involved individuals or small groups who pretended to have legitimate businesses or claimed they needed PPP funds for payroll and other business-related expenses but instead used them to buy luxury items for themselves.
A Miami man was arrested in July after he allegedly used $3.9 million in PPP funds to buy luxury goods, including a Lamborghini Huracán EVO valued at $318,000, designer goods worth $5,000 from Saks Fifth Avenue, and over $8,500 in jewelry purchased at Graff Diamonds. In another case, two South Florida men were charged for using fabricated and/or stolen identities to steal more than $3 million from COVID-19 relief programs.
Anyone accused of committing fraud related to COVID-19 relief programs in South Florida should immediately consult an experienced fraud defense attorney. An attorney can examine the evidence and craft a proper strategy to fight the allegations, even potentially having the charges dropped.
Miami Fraud Defense Attorney
Are you accused of committing fraud involving federal COVID-19 relief programs in Miami? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation with one of Miami’s most experienced fraud defense attorneys.